The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) announced state and local graduation rates Tuesday for public schools.
Baldwin County Schools came in at 85 percent for the 2019-20 school term, which is a decrease from the 90.7 percent posted locally the previous year.
While Baldwin County’s number may have decreased, it is still better than the latest statewide average of 83.8 percent.
Georgia’s public schools overall saw the graduation rate rise from 82 percent to 83.8.
Local school officials say the COVID-19 pandemic played a big role in the rate decreasing locally. The subject was discussed Tuesday during the Baldwin County Board of Education’s monthly work session.
“It has dipped, but considering that we are trying to educate our students in the middle of a global pandemic, we are very proud of the students that stuck it through and completed the requirements to graduate,” School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price said.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sharon Simmons heads up the graduation cohort committee that tracks students on their path to graduation. She explained the efforts that went into doing that job once school buildings closed in March and distance learning was enacted.
“We were having weekly meetings, and sometimes meeting outside of the scheduled meetings trying to stay on top of students,” Simmons said. “Every single counselor and administrator took groups of students that we were responsible for to make sure that we didn’t lose them. Even with all of that, we still lost students because we could not make that contact.”
The assistant superintendent added that Baldwin County Schools had been on track to post a higher percentage before the pandemic forced a change in educational delivery.
“It’s like when they left, the motivation left,” said Simmons. “We truly believed that being in a pandemic caused an impact.”
Some students took jobs and focused on making money over their school work.
“We saw that more than ever this time,” Price said. “It’s a battle that we’re fighting in helping students understand the options an education would provide with a high school diploma.”
Some who did not graduate, about 15 according to the superintendent, have come back to try and finish out their diploma requirements in five years.
Baldwin County’s 85 percent figure is still nearly 20 percentage points better than Baldwin County’s graduation rate from 2014 when only two-thirds of students completed the requirements for their high school diplomas on time.
Unlike other state metrics for public school performance, graduation rates are calculated in a fairly straightforward manner. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate method was collected first for the 2010-11 school year and continues to be in use for public schools around the country. To boil the adjusted cohort graduation rate down, when students enter the ninth grade they become part of a cohort that is expected to graduate in four years. The cohort is adjusted when students transfer into or out of a school during their high school tenure — transfers in are added to the cohort while transfers out are subtracted. The total number of students in that adjusted cohort divided by the number who graduate on time is the graduation rate for that cohort. Only those students who transfer to a different school are subtracted from the cohort. Those who drop out remain as part of the group and count against the graduation rate. For Baldwin, 244 out of 287 students in the Class of 2020 adjusted cohort completed the requirements for their high school diplomas on time.
“We’ll continue to push,” Price said. “Our goal is to get 100 percent. We know that may be an ambitious goal, but that’s our goal, to get all of our kids to graduate with a high school diploma. We will not give up on them.”